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The Fact of Laughter

His hand kept jumping at each laugh
to shade the gap where three teeth had fallen,
ground loose by forty years of pipe stem.

It startled us, the fact of laughter.
Black Cavendish and coffee had climbed those gums,
settled thickly for years, but the movement was new.
I struggled to keep the saw straight; he pushed down
the back where it was bucking up.

I wondered whether, back in his wood,
as he'd ease on a stool disguised as a pair of birches
twined and pinned in a wayward fragment
of geodesic bow and grin
at the dry floor of the house he'd strapped
from saplings and ancient pines,
blink up at the rain and laugh,
his hand would pause in air.

July '00

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